Review Summary: This is best thought of as the metalcore equivalent of candy: there is absolutely no substance or originality to speak of, but hell, is it delicious.
I've recently been thinking about a slightly abstract concept of mine. It involves the difference between liking
an album. You see, I think that there is a big divide between the two. I like an album when I see that it's a good, original piece of music that involves skill and impressive musicianship. I enjoy it when it's an album that I have a truly fun time listening to. The two are not mutually exclusive: there is a plethora of albums that I both like and enjoy. However, there remains those that only fit one category. For example, I like Tool's Lateralus, but I do not enjoy it, because while it is a considerably complex piece of music, the songs are long and pretentious, and it's not at all fun for me to listen to. With Roots Above and Branches Below
, by much maligned metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada, is an album that I do not particularly "like," but one that I greatly enjoy.
I don't "like" the album for the same reasons that are given every time someone bashes the band. It is some of the most unoriginal and formulaic metalcore you will ever hear in your entire life, repeating the same epic synth and breakdown infested structure that you've undoubtedly heard hundred of times. The singing/screaming vocal formula, whilst involving a couple of reasonably good vocalists, is the exact same thing that infests most of the metalcore scene, and can grow to be laughably cheesy at times. I could go on, but I would just be repeating the same argument that is almost as formulaic as the metalcore that it's attempting to demonize.
So why in the hell would anyone enjoy this album? Well, because while it is remarkably cheesy and formulaic, it remains one of the easiest and most fun listening experiences you'll ever get out of a metalcore band. The breakdowns are a good example of this idea. While everyone loves to malign breakdowns, there is not a single person I've ever met who does not secretly enjoy a few good chugtastic breakdowns every now and then. TDWP excessively uses these breakdowns, but most of the breakdowns happen to be very well-done, and are sure to set off involuntary foot-tapping and/or head-bobbing in even the most elite metalhead. These sections are often riddled with cheesy synthesizer lines, but the supreme cheesiness here is offset by the fact that they synths do
, in fact sound slightly "epic," thereby meeting their intended purpose. The aforementioned sing/scream vocals, while being annoying if listened to in excess, are, in fact, fairly good. The cleans in particular are actually quite beautiful, with the soft section in Danger: Wildman
being a good representation of how this singing is put to good use throughout the album.
These three combined factors, along with numerous smaller ones, make this album, in all likelihood, not something you will "like," but something that you will sure as hell "enjoy." The best parts of the album are showcased in the album highlight Assistant to the Regional Manager
, a song that perfectly blends breakdowns, synths, and catchy-as-hell
vocal dynamics to the point of being possibly the most addicting song you've heard all month (also, the Office reference doesn't hurt either). One last factor to take into consideration is that this band does not at all take themselves seriously. Instead of acting like their music is the greatest thing since sliced bread like some other core bands do (I'm looking at you, Acacia Strain and Parkway Drive), they seem to make their music for the fun of it. They don't expect anyone to take them seriously, as is referenced by the ridiculous song titles: they are just making music because they enjoy
doing it. The same goes for any potential listeners. This album is not meant to be taken seriously in the slightest. It is meant as a quick, fun metalcore listen and not as a technical, original piece of music. As soon as you truly accept that fact, you will have the capability to truly enjoy what this album has to offer.
Assistant to the Regional Manager